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10 Facts About Sanitation in AnguillaAnguilla is a Caribbean island about half the size of Washington D.C., nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Its tropical climate and terrain of low-lying coral and limestone have all contributed to this beautiful island’s dramatic water crisis. With a population of only 18,090, islanders have survived the island’s dry environment for more than 300 years. With careful husbandry, water conservation and the use of cisterns, Anguillans have found ways to make their erratic rainfall schedule work for them even during unpredictable drought periods, which can last up to three or four months. As access to improved sanitation facilities increases and tourism flourishes, the islands underground aquifer has been pushed to capacity. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Anguilla and how they contribute to the depletion of the island’s supply of drinking water.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Anguilla

  1. In 1995, improved water sources were only available to 57 percent of the Anguillian population. Improved sanitation facilities include the use of a “flush or pour-flush sewer system, septic tank or pit latrine; ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine; pit latrine with slab or a composting toilet.” In 2011, records showed an increase to 95 percent. By 2015, that number increased again to 97.9 percent of the population; at least 98 percent of those facilities were flush toilets.
  2. Because Anguilla does not have rivers, its drinking water consists of collected rain, wells connected to underground aquifers and desalination. Reportedly in 2000, 60 percent of the population had access to drinking water. Later, 61 percent of households indicated that their main source is from bottled water.
  3. At least 73 percent of the Anguillan population still gathers water from a cistern that pipes water into their homes. The same report from 2011 says that 15 percent of the population used the public water piped into their homes. At least 4 percent used a “public standpipe, well or tank.”
  4. The poor quality of water obtained from cisterns is of concern it is used for drinking purposes in addition to other domestic uses. Contaminants from rainwater can grow in containers like cisterns. They pose a health threat to those consuming the water. Pathogens like bacteria, viruses and Protozoa in cisterns can be treated with chlorine. However, chlorine can lose effectiveness within 24 hours of entering a cistern and these microorganisms that are transmitted in water can cause disease, which includes the potential of death.
  5. A combination of agricultural fertilizer, animal wastes as well as wastewater run-off from domestic and commercial septic tanks are seeping untreated into groundwater. This causes a chemical pollution problem for what little drinking water the island does have.
  6. Nitrate concentrations are increasing in most of the production and test wells connected to the underground aquifer. For many years, Anguilla’s aquifer has been subjected to periodic laboratory analysis by those concerned with public health and environmental quality. It shows nitrate concentrations in excess of the maximum acceptable drinking water limit.
  7. Pollution in groundwater that spills into coastal ponds and phosphates from detergents in domestic wastewater provide the right chemical nutrients to accelerate the growth and proliferation of unpleasant marine algae. This creates murky coastal waters, prevents coral growth.
  8. Chronic illnesses and diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer from which Anguillans suffer are believed to be a result of the poor quality of water that they drink. In an attempt to improve the health of the population, Ms. Ursuline Joseph of Dominica has recommended a solution to create acceptable levels of alkaline in water. X20 is “a mineral-rich alkaline product” containing 77 different types of minerals to prevent diseases from developing in the body. Manufactured by Xooma, X20 originates from an ocean source off the coast of Japan. When the powdered product is added to 1.5 liters of water, it alkalizes with minerals and becomes healthier to drink.
  9. Anguilla’s primary water management problems arise out of the fact that there is not very much to manage. With an annual average rainfall of about 40 inches per year. Evaporation rates can reach 70 inches per year during droughts. The number of wells dug into the aquifer over the years is unknown. However, professional hydrologists and water engineers worry about the prospect of over-pumping in the near future. That being said, professionals are finding themselves less worried about the amount of groundwater left and more concerned with the quality of the groundwater itself.
  10. Pure Aqua provides a range of filtration and economical solutions to meet Anguilla’s water needs based on its resources. Focusing on reverse osmosis and water treatment, Pure Aqua manufactures and supplies high-quality water treatment systems built with cutting-edge technology. It custom-designs its systems for specific applications across many different industries. Anguilla has only a few options for sources of water. These include surface water, desalination, groundwater and government water. Pure Aqua provides systems with the ability to treat any of these sources with a host of different methods such as ultrafiltration systems, media water filters, brackish water RO, seawater reverse osmosis systems, chemical dosing, UV sterilizers and water softeners.

The demand for water resulting from the expansion of new residential areas and tourism facilities has devastated groundwater supply in Anguilla. The root problem is that pumping rates at the wells now in use are maxed out. Trying to extract more water would risk the structural integrity and possibly allow seawater intrusion, thus destroying the aquifer. Sanitation as a whole has seen enormous strides forward while also being part of the reason pollution threatens the water sources that are available.

Janice Athill
Photo: Wikimedia

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Guadeloupe
Life expectancy is an assessment of not only the projected lifetimes of individuals within a population but also a measure of the quality of life. Life expectancies of various countries range from 50 to nearly 85 years, but life expectancy statistics are consistently higher for women than they are for men regardless of what region a person is analyzing. Guadeloupe, one of three island regions of France that exist overseas in the Caribbean, is showing that it is exceeding the minimum standards in terms of human longevity. Guadeloupe continues to improve relative to the place with the highest life expectancy. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Guadeloupe.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Guadeloupe

  1. The standard for living for the islanders of Guadeloupe is near the highest in the Caribbean. Coincidingly, life expectancy numbers are also relatively high for this region. Various factors (not just the GDP per capita) measure the standard of living of a country that determines the quality of life, such as personal consumption of goods as well as factors that are outside of individual control, like environmental conditions and public services.

  2. Since Guadeloupe is a French territory, the social legislation in place is synonymous with that of metropolitan France. The largest general hospital is at Pointe-à-Pitre, but multiple smaller independent clinics exist throughout the area. As of 2016, France implemented a universal health care system for Guadeloupe citizens in an attempt to reduce poverty and prevent further revolts.

  3. Guadeloupe has seen a rise in the cost of living and increased disparity among commodities in comparison to metropolitan France. In 2009, islanders began revolting for a relative wage increase. Still, poverty and unemployment rates in Guadeloupe run more than double what exists in France.

  4. The efforts that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Overseas Territories put forth served priorities including improving the overall status of health and reducing disparities of health status, improving crisis management, assessing and addressing the needs of senior citizens and persons with disabilities and lowering inequality with regard to access to health services. This health insurance covers pregnant women and means that they no longer have to pay upfront for their medical appointments as part of their maternity coverage. Patients suffering from long-term illnesses also do not have upfront copays, which takes a lot of financial stress off of those with medical needs living in poverty. This type of access to health care should only improve these 10 facts about life expectancy in Guadeloupe.

  5. The leading causes of death during maternity and birth are maternal hypertension and hemorrhaging during delivery. Mosquitoes spread the Zika virus and it can be a source of illness for pregnant women, causing microcephaly in the fetus of an infected mother who does not receive treatment. The Caribbean has announced that Zika is no longer prevalent, however, scientific analysis reveals that due to changes in the classification system, the ability to track the Zika virus is what has actually changed, not the disease itself. In other words, the status of the Zika virus has merely shifted from epidemic to something that one needs to manage long-term.

  6. Guadeloupe has a low population growth rate relative to the other West Indian Islands. This makes sense, considering both the birth and death rates are below the Caribbean average. Perhaps less turnover is indicative of a relatively high life expectancy, as demonstrated by the population of Guadeloupe.

  7. The life expectancy for both sexes in Guadeloupe was 81.84 as of July 2019, whereas the life expectancy of women is 85.24 next to 78.13 for men. In comparison, statistics for France show a projected life expectancy of 85.36 for women and 79.44 for men, with a figure of 82.46 for both sexes. The life expectancy is lower in Guadeloupe in all classifications of sex, even though both countries are French territory.

  8. Some causes of death go unclassified in Guadeloupe. In 2013, there was documentation of 6,600 deaths between the three departments of the French West Indies. These deaths were due to cardiovascular diseases, parasitic or infectious diseases and unclassified diseases. In fact, 13.4 percent of deaths in Guadeloupe were unclassifiable.

  9. In 2013, reports determined there were 240 new cases of HIV in Guadeloupe. Mortality rates from AIDS remain relatively and consistently low due to the fact that population growth rates are fairly low along with the availability of antiretroviral drugs. However, it is still notable that while AIDS might not be a common direct cause of death, mortality from AIDS-related infections is still the leading cause of death in Guadeloupe. In metropolitan France, the leading cause of death is cancer.

  10. Survival rates of and trends of patients with HIV/AIDS in Guadeloupe resemble patterns to Europe as opposed to those in the Caribbean. However, reports still confirm that HIV infections do not typically receive a diagnosis until they have progressed to the stage of AIDS. Although therapy treatments are slightly more developed in Guadeloupe than in neighboring Caribbean countries, medical advancements remain necessary to increase survival rates and aid in the prevention and diagnosis of HIV/AIDS.

When considering life expectancy on an international scope, Guadeloupe is surpassing the minimum standards. Currently, the benefits of the 2009 uprisings are evident only in the health care system; poverty and unemployment continue to be rampant among the islanders of Guadeloupe. At the very least, a high percentage of the population has this universal insurance coverage and the populations most in need even receive supplementary health insurance coverage which provides augmented health care at no additional cost. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Guadeloupe show that things are moving in the right direction in terms of decreasing disparity between Guadeloupe and metropolitan France. The supplemental assistance available to individuals (regardless of employment status) is just the type of progressive accessibility to resources that should be implemented in so many countries facing extreme poverty.

 – Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

Florida Universities Waived Rules and Regulations for Caribbean ScholarsFollowing a request from Governor Rick Scott, Florida schools have waived their rules and regulations for Caribbean scholars who have been left deprived and affected by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. State Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart was one of the signees of the order for students from Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other Caribbean nations.

In a public address, Stewart announced, “Entire communities were destroyed, and we do not know how long it will take to restore schools and other essential infrastructure…It is critical that these students and teachers have the opportunity to participate in our state’s outstanding public education system. We are pleased to remove barriers to enrollment and help these students and teachers return to the classroom.”

As of now, students from the islands are able to continue their classes and permeate into the Florida public school curriculums without their birth certificates, official transcripts and health forms that transfer students would traditionally be required to have. Also, those who are seeking teaching positions are being given the opportunity to apply without their health records and age verifications, along with proof of degree-attainment and subject-mastery documentation. The federal government has obliged school districts to label students affected by hurricanes as “homeless” to allow the students to be eligible for free meals and more accessible transportation.

Futhermore, some public colleges in Florida have agreed to offer in-state tuition to affected Caribbean students. These colleges include: Broward College, Hillsborough Community College, Miami Dade College, Palm Beach State College, Seminole State College of Florida, the University of Central Florida, Valencia College and St. Petersburg College.

In a statement made by Scott, the governor claimed he wanted to, “ensure students from Puerto Rico can more easily continue their education here in Florida and that teachers from Puerto Rico have every opportunity to continue to succeed in their careers.” He also pointed out that, “as families work to rebuild their lives following the unbelievable devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, we are doing everything we can to help them throughout this process.”

While their education is furthered in the U.S., many of the students wish for recovery for their respective homes. However, because these Florida schools have waived their rules and regulations for Caribbean scholars affected by the hurricanes, many students are able to continue following their dreams and their career paths. Without initiatives like these, many hurricane victims would have to be stuck on pause until the recovery of their homes.

Jalil Perry

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Dominica

The Commonwealth of Dominica, a small island nation, is one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean. While other Caribbean nations have moderately successful tourist industries, Dominica’s tourism has decreased in recent years along with its economic growth. Dependence on a failing banana industry has further exacerbated the country’s poverty; therefore, it is necessary to help people in Dominica reinvent their economy.

As recently as the 1990s, Dominica supported itself through banana farming, which was well-suited to the country’s tropical environment. While banana-centric agriculture was reliable and productive, economic specialization proved to be a kiss of death for Dominica’s economy in a changing trade landscape. When global tariffs on American-grown bananas were lifted in 2008, Dominican farmers simply could not compete with the low prices offered by American companies.

While the revenue generated by banana exports once supported nearly 2,000 Dominican farmers, only about 700 struggling banana farmers remain. Dominica’s unemployment rate sits at a staggering 23%, having decreased only two percent over the last decade.

Dominica’s economic hard times have impacted the lives of its citizens. Forty percent of Dominica’s population lives in poverty. Since the fall of the banana industry, Dominicans have left the country in droves, seeking employment. The exodus has been so significant that remittance payments from emigrant family members account for 16% of Dominica’s GDP.

The Dominican government has promoted economic diversification in an attempt to resurrect the economy and provide more jobs for Dominican citizens. Another Caribbean nation, Antigua and Barbuda, set the example for a diversified economy after the decline of its sugar cane industry. By embracing tourism and online gaming, as well as construction, Antigua and Barbuda saw significant financial benefits. Unfortunately, Dominica has not yet successfully diversified. The tourism industry in Dominica is still meager compared to that of other Caribbean nations, and other agricultural exports, like coffee, fruit and flowers, have not replaced the lucrative banana.

In addition to monetary problems, water sanitation issues and resulting diseases plague Dominica’s inhabitants. Thirty-seven percent of Dominicans do not have access to clean water. Unsanitary water increases the incidence of diseases such as typhoid fever, which has increased in Dominica by nearly 40% since 1990. Though Dominica’s government created a water and sewage management company in 1989 (The Dominica Water and Sewage Company), Dominica still relies on foreign grants for infrastructural maintenance.

Changes in trade policy would greatly help people in Dominica. The reimplementation of tariffs on U.S. produce would make it easier for Dominican farmers to sell their bananas on the global market. Fair trade organizations, such as the Windward Islands Farmers Association, have helped banana farmers access profitable trading opportunities, so buying fair trade Dominican bananas supports the livelihood of Dominican farmers. However, further assistance is needed.

The EU is Dominica’s most significant donor, though China also contributes aid. If Dominica is going to be successful, more wealthy countries such as the U.S. should provide aid programs or create legislation to strengthen infrastructure, reenergize and diversify the economy, and help people in Dominica live free from poverty.

Mary Efird
Photo: Flickr

Online Gaming in the Caribbean

After receiving sovereign status from the U.S., several American Indian nations took advantage of the gaming industry as a means of increasing revenue. Similarly, many developing countries, those in the Caribbean in particular, have capitalized on technological advances to boost their economies via online gaming. Online gaming in the Caribbean has blossomed in recent years and may act as a promising source of employment.

Internet access is an incredible technological benefit to developing nations. Not only does the internet allow inhabitants of developing nations to engage with the world and access information previously unavailable to them, but it also offers unique economic opportunities. Internet gaming has been one of the fastest-growing brands of online commerce.

Casinos have played a part in the Caribbean’s tourist industry for decades, and online gaming is a profitable addition to gaming industries already there. Studies show that income plays a substantial role in the amount of money that a nation contributes to gambling. Most individuals living in the Caribbean earn small incomes that are insufficient for fuelling and sustaining a large gaming industry. The internet allows these nations to access individuals from wealthier countries beyond foreign tourists visiting casinos in resorts.

The Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, passed by the U.S. government in 2006, limits the income generated by Caribbean gaming websites by denying them access to U.S. patrons. In the past, the Caribbean nation Antigua and Barbuda took the U.S. to court at the World Trade Organization (and won) for similar interferences with their gaming industry.

Critics of the industry understandably question whether or not the GDP increase resulting from gaming correlates with the betterment of citizens’ lives. Malta, a fellow tourist-popular island located in the Mediterranean, is the poster-child for how online gaming can nourish an economy. Twelve percent of Malta’s GDP comes from online gaming, and this industry supplies jobs to 8,000 employees, which is not insignificant on a small island nation such as Malta or those in the Caribbean.

Not only is the amount of jobs created by internet gaming important to developing Caribbean economies, but also the type of jobs. Online gaming in the Caribbean is beneficial because the technology involved requires more advanced education and special training, not typical of jobs in the developing world. Caribbean governments encourage gaming because it generates specialized jobs that provide employees with skills that increase the probability of future employment in higher-level jobs.

Further efforts must be made to foster growth in the Caribbean. While online gaming in the Caribbean may not be enough to elevate whole nations out of poverty, it is one example of the creative ways in which developing nations are utilizing technology to revolutionize and diversify the landscape of their job market and economy.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

Natural Disasters Hit Poor the HardestThe aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which hit the Caribbean and United States in September 2017, along with the 8.1 magnitude earthquake that shook Mexico also in September illustrate the total destruction entire communities face when hit by natural disasters. Natural disasters have been proven to increase poverty and most adversely affect those who are already poor.

The category five Hurricane Irma made landfall on Antigua, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Barbuda, Guadeloupe and more, totaling over 10 Caribbean countries affected. In Barbuda alone, 90 percent of vehicles and buildings have been destroyed and many people have been left homeless. Because Barbuda is not as wealthy as other Caribbean countries, it cannot as quickly rebuild for its people, leaving its citizens more impoverished than ever.

Mexico’s 8.1 magnitude earthquake has also left many suddenly in poverty or more impoverished than they previously were. Many buildings were reduced completely to rubble, particularly in the town of Juchitan, which was hit hardest by the earthquake. Residents of the town slept in streets and parks following the earthquake to avoid aftershock and because of damages to numerous homes creating uninhabitable conditions.

Juchitan is located in Oaxaca, a rural region in southwestern Mexico, and one of the poorest areas in the country. Jorge Valenica, a reporter from Mexico City, discussed the damaging effects of the earthquake on Juchitan in an interview with NPR. He stated, “As with many natural disasters, the communities that get hit the worst sometimes are the communities that were already the most in need.”

The World Bank reports that poor people are so adversely affected by natural disasters because they are usually more exposed to natural hazards – i.e. their homes, if they have them, are not built as well, and they have less access to evacuation resources than those who are middle and upper class. Unfortunately, when the poor lose necessities like shelter, they typically do not have savings, family, friends or the government to fall back on. Even those who do not completely lose their homes often cannot avoid repairs and renovations due to new building standards created to make homes safer.

In light of the worsening of poverty in places hit by natural disasters, organizations such as Oxfam continue to work to provide basic needs to individuals, focusing upon hygiene and sanitation for those most affected by the storms. Oxfam’s main goal after Hurricane Irma is to contain and eliminate any cholera and other diseases caused by damage to water infrastructure, helping to keep people healthy. Natural disasters continue to hit the world’s poor the hardest, but even in the wake of a catastrophe, goodness, giving and help can be found.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

Why Dominica Is PoorDominica is a small, mountainous island nation in the Caribbean. Poverty has been a stumbling block to development here for years, with 29 percent of households and 40 percent of the general population living in poverty in 2003. Unemployment stands at about 25 percent. Sizable minorities of people live without running water and proper toilets. Poverty is most pronounced among Dominica’s native population, the Caribs.

While there may be several reasons why Dominica is poor, poverty here does correlate with the decline in the banana industry over the past several years. Agriculture accounts for 17.6 percent of Dominica’s GDP. The banana industry has been the heart of Dominica’s economy for over half a century and its decline has been cited as a reason why Dominica is poor.

An agreement had guaranteed the European Union, via the former British colonies of the Commonwealth in the Caribbean, a corner on the Caribbean banana market and allowed bananas to be imported to Europe duty-free. In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton worked with several Latin American countries to undo this rule as a favor to the fruit giants Chiquita and Dole, two donors to his campaign. The Caribbean banana industry has never recovered, especially in places like Dominica, which lacks sizeable tourism or financial services industries to fall back on the way some of its neighbors in the region do. This may be the best explanation of why Dominica is poor.

Another explanation for why Dominica is poor may be its health concerns, particularly healthy reproductive practices and HIV/AIDS. There has been an increase in cases of tuberculosis there, which often follows an increase of HIV. In addition, teenage pregnancy and unprotected sex are prevalent there.

Dominica has sought several solutions to its poverty, including embracing fair trade of bananas, establishing a financial services industry, pivoting to China and joining the late socialist Venezuelan leader’s Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas as a response to U.S.-led free trade agreements. It remains to be seen what the future has in store for this island.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Help People in Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago, a country in the Caribbean known for its beauty, vibrancy and historically inclusive nature, is unfortunately also home to many people living in poverty. As of 2013, approximately 35.1 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Such poverty leads almost inevitably to political strife, violence, and, in the specific case of Trinidad and Tobago, the entrance of ISIS into the lives of its citizens. With this in mind, here are a few small ways to help people in Trinidad and Tobago escape this cycle of poverty and violence:

  1. Help provide food. A teacher would likely confirm that a student who comes to school hungry will not be able to concentrate on their lessons. Likewise, it is incredibly difficult to help a poor population without first providing them with food. Food for the Poor has been incredibly helpful in this regard, sending healthy meals to families in Trinidad and Tobago, along with basic hygiene products, products for community development and even school supplies.
  2. Build houses. The Ministry of Housing in Trinidad and Tobago estimates that about 19 percent of the population lives in informal settlements rather than actual houses. Many people are on an incredibly long wait list for government housing and may have to wait 25 years before a house is available. Because of this increasing demand for housing – due to population growth and income equality – building more affordable housing is crucial. Along with providing food, Food for the Poor has also been instrumental in providing housing to poor families in Trinidad and Tobago, as has Habitat for Humanity. Both organizations greatly appreciate help, both in the form of donations and in the form of volunteer work.
  3. Support education and vocational training. As farming is incredibly important to the country’s economy, many people have found that they are able to greatly increase their income by learning new farming techniques, including how to maximize efficiency in their land area and which particular crops to grow. The Caroni Central Farmers’ Market has run with this idea, encouraging people to grow quality crops and, more importantly, teaching them how to make a good living out of it.

While it is always important to help countries in need, helping people in Trinidad and Tobago has a particular significance right now, as more and more young men are being recruited into ISIS. In fact, the country has become a breeding ground for extremism in the Caribbean. This is, in part, due to poverty and the fact that many young people see very few opportunities for their future (especially with the country’s economy on a steady decline), making them easy targets for extremist recruitment. While this is a problem with no one simple solution, the government of Trinidad and Tobago has been slowly trying to prevent the influence of ISIS by introducing new amendments which would criminalize membership in the Islamic State or any extremist organization.

Still, it is clear that the root of this problem is poverty and helplessness, both of which can be alleviated by providing food, housing, education and generally letting people in Trinidad and Tobago know that people care about them. While it may not fix everything, it will be a small way to help people in Trinidad and Tobago and, hopefully, begin to lift them out of poverty.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr

Hurricane Irma ReliefThe U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has launched a major humanitarian mission in the Caribbean regions that have been devastated by Hurricane Irma. The organization’s outreach efforts are focused on the most vulnerable inhabitants of the affected areas: children.

UNICEF is a U.N. program working to protect childrens’ rights in 192 countries and territories. UNICEF employs both intensive research and practical problem-solving to provide humanitarian assistance to children in developing countries. In 2016, UNICEF provided educational materials and other support to 15.7 million children, including 11.7 million children who had been impacted by emergencies such as natural disasters and civil unrest.

The organization has a proven track record in providing relief to hurricane victims in the Caribbean. After Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, UNICEF helped return 25,000 students to school by rebuilding 75 educational centers. Additionally, the nonprofit secured medical aid for 80,000 people and provided clean water for 400,000 people.

UNICEF estimates that more than 10.5 million children will be affected by Hurricane Irma, including more than three million children younger than five years old. The organization’s most urgent concern is getting clean drinking water to storm victims.

UNICEF is uniquely positioned to spread awareness and survival tips to adolescents living within the hurricane zone, thanks to U-Report. U-Report is a communication platform that uses SMS texting to relay information and surveys to young participants. UNICEF typically utilizes U-Report to poll adolescents about pressing issues in their communities.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, UNICEF mobilized U-Report to send out “how to stay safe” messages to young users in the storm zone. The nonprofit sent out 8,500 texts within the initial 48 hours of the hurricane. Messages were available in English, French and Spanish to accommodate the diverse population affected by the hurricane. Between 9 p.m. and midnight on September 6, a user accessed information about Irma via U-Report every 10 seconds.

UNICEF was able to launch an immediate Hurricane Irma relief effort because the organization anticipated and prepared for the devastation. “Considering the possible magnitude that Irma represents, it is both hugely urgent and necessary to be prepared, informed and vigilant so that we try to avoid the impact on the most vulnerable, that is to say children,” said Marita Perceval, UNICEF regional director in Latin America and the Caribbean.

To prepare for the hurricane, UNICEF moved emergency supplies including clean water, medicine and nonperishable food into the region. Additional emergency materials are being sent from the UNICEF Supplies Division warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark. The warehouse is the world’s largest humanitarian storage facility and can ship supplies anywhere in the world within 72 hours.

UNICEF already has first responders on the scene who are utilizing emergency supplies stored in Barbados and Panama. U-Report aids these humanitarian workers by collecting information on who needs help after Irma.

The organization is distributing tents, hygiene kits and water purification tablets to families in Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos. Child protection materials are also being provided to ensure that affected children are identified and sheltered. Trained facilitators have been sent to the region to ensure the psychological well-being of young victims.

Leaders at the nonprofit urge the international community to increase support for Hurricane Irma relief. Khin-Sandi Lwin, head of UNICEF’s Caribbean response, estimates that the organization needs another $2.3 million in funding to complete its humanitarian efforts.

UNICEF will continue providing Hurricane Irma relief in the coming weeks. More information about UNICEF’s Hurricane Irma relief efforts and ways to help can be found on their website.

Katherine Parks

Photo: Google

Hunger in Montserrat

Located in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, Montserrat is a tiny British overseas territory with a population of less than 6,000. After a series of volcanic eruptions in the late 1990s, the island became more difficult to reach. Even today, it is relatively isolated compared to other tourist-oriented Caribbean islands, but there are a growing number of tourists coming to see the “Caribbean Pompeii”.

The economy of Montserrat today is based mostly on service and construction due to the impact of both Hurricane Hugo and the severe volcanic eruptions that began in July 1995. The city of Plymouth was covered with ashes and boulders, and even though it is not completely reconstructed, it is still officially the capital of the island. Approximately two-thirds of the inhabitants fled the island to escape hunger and general insecurity in Plymouth area. Some of them still live in poor housing, struggling with their economic situation after the loss of their homes, incomes and family members.

The economic downturn after the hurricane increased unemployment, reduced working hours and increased pressure on household budgets. There is widespread criticism of the government’s performance, ranging from the failure to control prices or reduce taxes to the perception that administration only takes care of their own employees.

A 2007 study of poverty and hardship called “Montserrat Survey of Living Conditions” (MSLC) and research undertaken by the World Bank showed that economic factors are the main causes of poverty in Montserrat. According to the International Comparisons of Poverty table, 36 percent of the population is poor and 34 percent are food insecure. Children are the most vulnerable in general, and make up a third of the population affected by hunger in Montserrat.

Hunger in Montserrat is caused by high food prices, low wages and lack of employment opportunities. Many families are struggling to buy food every day and educate their children. This stress is made worse by high rates of criminal behavior, domestic violence and drug abuse. Because of the situation, many inhabitants have left the island to find work or to join their families in Britain.

Even though there are no opportunities for rapid economic growth in Montserrat, some government initiatives in the past few years, like the establishment of the Montserrat Development Corporation, promise to be beneficial for everyone.

The Department of Agriculture has several potential projects in the works, and there are plans to increase the number of small companies. The Ministry of Health and Wealth offers a number of services to the poor and vulnerable, including social assistance in cash and counseling for the poor.

Even though the general number of people affected by hunger in Montserrat remains high, some overall progress has been made in lowering the rate of extreme poverty. Most households have access to basic services and women are being empowered with educational programs. The government elected in 2014 is now investing in geothermal energy, tourism and sand mining. In an interview with The Guardian, premier Donaldson Romero declared that the “long, hopeless period” that started after the eruptions is finally over.

Edita Jakupovic

Photo: Flickr